Siddaramaiah DK Shivakumar rift
All is not well once again in Karnataka Congress? File photo shows DK Shivakumar and Siddaramaiah at a party meeting in Mandya to prepare for the Bharat Jodo Yatra.

Turmoil in Karnataka Congress as DKS-Siddaramaiah rift resurfaces

DK Shivakumar's' face-off with Siddaramaiah appears to stem from his frustration at not getting support from Congress MLAs in the state, an ED summons against him, and his rival's attempts to act on his own

The significant ‘hug’ at the recently held Siddaramotsava between the two top leaders of the Karnataka Congress, in the presence of Rahul Gandhi, created a ripple in political circles. Though it was mocked at by opponents, it created a positive vibe among party workers, apart from sending a clear message of Congress unity to the BJP and JDS.

But the bonhomie and comradeship between the two leaders seem to be fading. Former CM Siddaramaiah’s birthday bash at Davanagere sent out a strong message to the party that he is a frontrunner for the CM post again, if the Congress comes back to power in Karnataka. It also sent a message to party workers that Siddaramaiah and Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) chief DK Shivakumar (DKS) don’t have any differences and the Congress is marching towards victory in the upcoming Assembly elections.

Also read: Siddaramaiah birthday bash – Rahul calls for party unit ahead of polls

Later, the Independence Day march in Bengaluru proved that the Congress was united again and it certainly irked the opponents. 

Meanwhile, the internal survey reports of both BJP and Congress are showing that the latter is going to emerge as the single largest party, with the BJP closely behind. This has further lifted the mood of the Congress workers. Moreover, the morale in the ruling BJP is very low because of the scams and a non-functioning administration.

At this crucial time, DKS has gone into an attack mode. His recent belligerent actions targeted at Siddaramaiah have triggered speculation in the ranks about his alleged motives.

DKS’ frustration

The question being asked is whether DKS has become bolder and more open about his attempts to restrain Siddaramaiah. With the BJP keen on exploring ‘scams’ that happened during Siddaramaiah’s rule, this may put the former CM in a tight corner and DKS hopes to capitalise on his troubles. But, DKS’ latest face-off with Siddaramaiah seems to stem from his frustration over recent developments.

Though DKS tried to get closer to Rahul Gandhi, that did not happen. Rahul, however, is keen on facing the Assembly election with AHINDA leader Siddaramaiah with the support of DKS. This is probably one reason for DKS’ frustration, said a party insider.

Also read: Padayatra politics, from Gandhiji to NTR, Advani, Modi and Rahul

Further, Siddaramaiah plans to conduct a ‘Rath Yatra’ in all the 224 Assembly constituencies on his own. This is alleged to have caused a lot of heartburn for DKS, who vented it out at a recent party office bearers’ meeting. 

Siddaramaiah’s followers have contributed a bus, which acts like a caravan for the yatra with several facilities including toilets, a mini meeting room, a facility to take rest, and a temporary dais at the top to address gatherings.

As a tit-for-tat, DKS ignored Siddaramaiah while conducting meetings to prepare for the Bharat Jodo Yatra, which will pass through the state very soon. In a pre-event programme in Raichur for the Bellary rally, the banners also deliberately did not feature Siddaramaiah’s picture.

Siddaramaiah kept out

Interestingly, at a meeting called by DKS on Wednesday (September 14) at the Vidhana Soudha, in which Karnataka Congress in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala was present, Siddaramaiah was not invited. Later, when Congress leaders Ajay Singh and KPCC working president Saleem Ahmed tried to cajole Siddaramaiah into attending it, the latter bluntly refused. He did not want to attend a meeting that he had not been invited to.

Surprisingly, DKS, who held a meeting of KPCC office bearers and conveners in Bengaluru on Friday (September 16), boldly ventured to announce that he will get a secret report from the office bearers on the possible candidates for the next Assembly elections in a sealed cover and hand them over to the Congress high command. But, he will not show the report to Siddaramaiah, he added.

Political observers also felt that DKS is not getting enough support from party MLAs to garner crowds to attend the Bharat Jodo Yatra. Siddaramaiah, who has more control over the MLAs, has instead asked them to be present at the ongoing Assembly session. The MLAs have no time to mobilise people or resources for the Yatra, saying they are busy with the upcoming election.

Also read: Scam-hit Karnataka BJP goes on offensive, unearths Congress-era scams

ED summons to DKS

What also added fuel to fire is that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has issued summons to DKS in connection with a money-laundering case and asked him to attend the investigation on September 19. When he was a  minister in the Siddaramaiah government, he and his family members allegedly got income from an unknown source to the tune of ₹74.93 crore. This allegation had emerged from a CBI investigation.

Now, the ED has started a separation investigation and DKS is worried about this since it is more or less similar to the case against former Delhi minister Satyendra Jain, who was arrested by the ED. During the investigation by the ED officials, DKS was arrested two years ago in 2019 and later, he was released on bail.

The Congress source said DKS is worried about the ED inquiry during the Bharat Jodo Yatra, where he is also not in a position to display his strength. This provoked him to use strong words against the MLAs who are not supporting him for the Bharat Jodo Yatra. In a recent meeting, he also issued a veiled threat stating that the high command can take any decision while selecting candidates for the upcoming Assembly elections citing the situation in Kerala, where around 13 sitting MLAs were denied tickets in the last Assembly election.

He even openly expressed his unhappiness over former KPCC chief and minister RV Deshpande for not supporting him. Deshpande, who is in Siddaramaiah’s camp and chairman of the ‘Siddaramotsava committee’, is said to have refused to arrange for 5,000 people for the Bharat Jodo Yatra. DKS also stated that the Freedom March was better planned unlike Siddaramotsva, thus openly displaying his anger against Siddaramaiah.

KPCC president election

One more key issue has cropped up regarding the KPCC president post. The two-year term ended recently and the new president is scheduled to be selected next week. However, the KPCC general body meeting proposed that party president Sonia Gandhi appoint a new president. A one-line resolution signed by KPCC chief DKS, which included signatures by Opposition leaders of both the Houses, Siddaramaiah and BK Hariprasad, said that there should be no election for the post. And, that DKS should be re-nominated since the party is not in a mood to change its leadership.

Also read: Karnataka Congress adopts four-pronged strategy to woo Lingayats

However, the ED case against DKS and developments in the coming week will be a deciding factor on whether he will continue as the KPCC president. It is said that the Siddaramaiah camp is showing interest in appointing MB Patil for the post if the situation gets worse for DKS. Patil is a Lingayat leader and Congress’ strategy is to woo Lingayat votes again into the party fold in this election. This is another reason DKS is upset as the tide seems to be turning against him.

Proposed Rath Yatra

After the success of ‘Siddaramotsava’, the Siddaramaiah camp is planning a three-month, state-wide Rath Yatra. This will be after Rahul’s Bharat Jodo Yatra completes its tour in Karnataka. Many sitting Congress MLAs and other aspirants of their respective constituencies have been demanding that Siddaramaiah conduct campaigns for them. This has made the Siddaramaiah camp rethink the Rath Yatra, along the lines of the Panchajanya Yatra of former CM SM Krishna and his own Padayatra from Bengaluru to Bellary, to create a favourable atmosphere for the Congress in the upcoming elections in March-April, 2023.

Simultaneously, he is also sending a strong signal to DKS that Siddaramaiah is the face of Congress this time in the state. However, Siddaramaiah’s followers are yet to get a green-signal from Rahul Gandhi about this Rath Yatra.

Reacting to these developments, DKS told the media, “I am not pained by the non-cooperation. I and all party MLAs have to support the Opposition leader in the Assembly. I have expressed my views to my office bearers and our AICC General Secretary Surejewala has set targets for all our MLAs. Instead of going to marriage functions and inaugurations, they have to conduct both yatras. I have told them to plough the field first in a good way and then sow the seedling.”

BJP happy

The ruling BJP, meanwhile, is understandably thrilled with the turmoil in the Congress team, as it doesn’t want Siddaramaiah and DKS to join forces. In fact, the BJP tweeted that the in-fighting between DKS and Siddaramaiah is now an open secret as both want to become the CM. 

“DKS was not happy over Siddaramotsava and Siddaramiah is unhappy over Bharat Jodo Yatra,” the tweet added.

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